In the midst of the chaos engulfing us today, I believe the antidote that will lead to peace is to gain a true historical perspective of how we got to this desert place and what we can do to find our way back home. With that as our goal, I will be quoting below a section from the introduction to the classic book by Peter J. Marshall titled “the Light and the Glory”. I hope that what follows will encourage and inspire you, and lead you consider purchasing and reading this foundational book. I have highlighted key points among the passages below for greater emphasis.
“… Once it had become clear that God did have a plan for America, our search for evidence of this plan became akin to tracking a rich vein of gold through a mountain. The vein of gold had four main characteristics.
1. First, God had put a specific ‘call’ on this country and the people whom He brought to inhabit it. In the virgin wilderness of America, God was making His most significant attempt since ancient Israel to create a ‘New Israel’ of people living in obedience to biblical principles, through faith in Jesus Christ. The Pilgrims and Puritans actually referred to themselves as God’s New Israel. But it wasn’t that they thought they (and the Christian Church) had replaced Israel. We would discover that they used the Church’s traditional method of interpreting the Old Testament: typology. This meant that they saw ‘types’ of New Testament events or persons in the Old Testament. America’s early Christian settlers, then, used typology to interpret God’s dealings in their own lives. They felt that certain passages in the Bible, originally addressed to Israel, also applied to them: For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks and water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills . . . a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing . . . and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Deuteronomy 8:7–10
2. Second, this call was to be worked out in terms of the settlers’ covenant with God and with each other. Both elements of this covenant—the vertical relationship with God and the horizontal relationship with their neighbors—were of the utmost importance to them. Concerning the vertical aspect of the covenant, they saw themselves as being called into a direct continuation of the covenant relationship between God and Abraham: ‘Now the LORD said to Abram, Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you’ (Gen. 12:1–2). ‘And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you’ (Gen. 17:7). To the Early Comers (as the first New Englanders called themselves), the Bible showed them how this would work: ‘And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also’ (1 John 4:21). This meant that the more they loved God, the more they could truly love their neighbors. This was crucial to God’s plan: it was His clear intent that as these settlers lived the Christian life, they would grow into unity and become a body of believers.
"In this spirit the early settlers covenanted together to form their churches. American government owes its inception to the covenants of the first churches on her shores.
3. Third, God kept His end of the bargain, on both an individual and a corporate basis. It is a sobering experience to look closely at our history and see just how highly God regarded right attitudes of heart. One finds long droughts broken by the people of a settlement deliberately praying and humbling themselves, turning back to the God whom they once trusted and had imperceptibly begun to take for granted. The recorded beliefs of the settlers themselves confirmed this. In private diaries and public proclamations, the immediate response to any disaster, human or natural, was, ‘Where do we need to repent?’ In fact, there seemed to be a continuing, almost predictable cycle: in great need and humility a small body of Christians would put themselves into the hands of their Lord and commit their lives to one another. They would do their best to live together as He had called them to live. And He, in turn, would begin to pour out His blessing on them with health, peace, and bounteous harvests. But as they grew affluent, they would also become proud or complacent or self-righteous. Nonetheless, the blessing would continue unabated, sometimes for a generation or more, as God continued to honor the obedience of their fathers and grandfathers (Deut. 7:9). But inevitably, because He loved them (and because even God’s patience has an end), He would lift the protection from their land, just enough to cause them to turn back to Him. A drought, an epidemic of smallpox, a plague of grasshoppers, or an Indian uprising would come, and the wisest among them would remember. Like the prophets of old, they would call the people to repentance.
Few Biblical principles are more compelling than this: that God blesses repentance. And, in the early days of our history, it was frequently proven that when people began to earnestly repent, what followed was the return of God’s grace. That a drought could be broken or an Indian attack averted by corporate repentance is an idea that sounds alien to many Christians today. Yet it was central to the faith that built this country, and it is a prominent, recurring theme in the Bible. One familiar example is, ‘If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land’ (2 Chron. 7:14). This, then, was the key to God’s plan for America: that His people—three thousand years ago, three hundred and fifty years ago, or today—would see themselves, individually and corporately, in continual need of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and support. And this was the secret of the horizontal aspect of the covenant as well: for only when we know that we are no better than anyone else—only then can we truly love other people.
Moreover, from this humble position, it is impossible to enter into an arrogant nationalism, a kind of ‘my country right or wrong’ attitude. Inherent in God’s call upon our ancestors to create a Bible-based society was the necessity to live in a state of constant dependency upon His grace and forgiveness—a strong antidote against pride and self-righteousness. Anyone tempted to arrogance concerning our nation’s call or history need only look at how badly we have failed—and continue to fail—to live up to God’s expectations for us. The great leaders of our past warned us about this. Here is Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster: ‘If we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.’
4. This, then, was the fourth and final theme: at times of great crisis God raised up great leaders to protect America from destruction so that His plan for us might have a chance of success. Instead of aspiring to fame and fortune, leaders like Bradford, Winthrop, Samuel Adams, and Washington truly wanted nothing more than to serve God’s people. And because these servant-leaders were living out the example of the one who said, ‘I am among you as one who serves,’ God was able to use them mightily to change the course of American history. In 1775 when the U.S. Marine Corps was founded, the recruiting slogan stated that it was seeking ‘a few good men.’ That is essentially what God said to Gideon in ancient Israel, when He reduced his army from thirty-two thousand to three hundred. And it was what He seemed to be saying three and a half centuries ago, as He began to gather those who were willing to give up everything for His sake in order to dwell in His ‘New Israel.’
How much of the grace that continues to cover this country today and how many of the incredible blessings that have been poured out upon this land are a direct result of their obedience and willingness to die to self? Only God knows for certain. That grace seems to be lifting now, but as we look through our nation’s history to discover God’s plan, we begin to see what a great difference a few dedicated people can make—and how much is still at stake. For God’s call to this country has never been revoked. America, America. God shed his grace on thee. . . .
Marshall, Peter J.. The Light and the Glory (God's Plan for America Book #1): 1492-1787 (pp. 19-24). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.